Sunday, May 17, 2015

Glory in the Bible

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23, NASB)

Have you ever wondered why the glory of God is the standard against which we will be judged?  Why not God’s love or holiness or righteousness?  If our sins are judged based on the glory of God then it is very important we understand glory, and specifically God’s glory.

Glory in the Bible is a study guide with 21 studies from Genesis to Revelation.  We start with the glory of Abram, Jacob, and Joseph.  We talk about the glory in the lives of Moses and Pharaoh.  The studies show how God revealed His glory to the Israelites and the Babylonians.

In the New Testament we see God’s glory demonstrated in the life of His son, Jesus Christ.  And, we see glory in the body of Christ, the growing church.  Paul also mentions the glory of the sun, moon, and stars.  His admonition to the believers was to live a life worthy of the kingdom and glory of God.

Glory is a foundational theme throughout the Bible.  This new study, Glory in the Bible, will help you to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the glory of men, nature, and the Almighty God.

For more information about Glory in the Bible, you can view the book on  Glory in the Bible

Sunday, February 22, 2015

You Gave, You Provided

It’s always exciting whenever I find a passage in the Bible that overlaps two of our studies.  Last Thursday our lunch-time group was working on Study 9 in “Worship in the Bible.”  This study looks at the worship time recorded in Nehemiah 9.  The people gathered to celebrate the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem.

Their time of worship was very different from modern church services.  One major difference was their focus on history.  Beginning with creation, through the Exodus, and the conquering of the Promised Land, their worship recalled the numerous ways God had provided for His people.

As we read the verses in Nehemiah 9, I couldn’t help but remember one of the major themes we found in the Old Testament when writing our latest book, “A Good and Faithful Steward.”  Time after time, in the Old Testament we saw how God provided richly.  These blessings began with Adam and Eve, who were given a fully functional garden filled with “every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food.”  (Genesis 2:9)  God’s rich blessings then continued through Abram, Joseph, Moses, King David, and King Solomon.  In the study guide we pointed out that God provided for His people, and His tendency was to abundantly provide. 

This theme is very clear in Nehemiah 9 when the people recounted many of God’s abundant blessings during their time of worship.  Here are a few examples from their worship poem showing how God had provided and over-provided for His people:

“And with a pillar of cloud You led them by day,
And with a pillar of fire by night
To light for them the way
In which they were to go.”  (v. 9)

“You provided bread from heaven for them for their hunger,
You brought forth water from a rock for them for their thirst.”  (v. 15)

“You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them,
Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth,
And You gave them water for their thirst.
Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want;
Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell.”  (v. 20–21)

“They captured fortified cities and a fertile land.
They took possession of houses full of every good thing,
Hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive groves,
Fruit trees in abundance.
So they ate, were filled and grew fat,
And reveled in Your great goodness.”  (v. 25)

Do you see in these verses how the LORD not only provided, He over-provided?  How great it is to worship a God who not only provides, He richly provides!!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Four Titles of Jesus

When people interacted with Jesus they referred to Him by several different titles.  The title they choose to use when addressing Jesus reveals much to us about their personal view of His position and authority.

There are four common titles to watch for when people addressed Jesus:
1.  Teacher or Rabbi – Addressing Jesus by this title showed the person respected Jesus as a good teacher and was willing to listen to His words.

2.  Prophet – When people referred to Jesus as a prophet they were acknowledging He was a special messenger sent from God.  Many times they used this title after Jesus had performed some type of miracle or sign.  Since there had not been any prophet in Israel for over 400 years, this was an honored name.

3.  Lord – Whenever someone referred to Jesus as Lord it showed that they acknowledged His highly exalted position.  More than just listening to His words, they were showing that they were willing to submit to His authority.  Some of those who addressed Jesus as Lord understood that His kingdom was a heavenly, eternal kingdom.  Unfortunately, many just wanted Jesus to be lord on earth as the leader who vanquished the hated Romans.

4.  Christ, Messiah, Anointed One – There were some people who completely understood that Jesus was the Messiah, the Promised One, sent from God to redeem His people.  These are the people who truly understood the rightful power and authority of Jesus as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Here are some good examples:
Jesus was at the home of a Pharisee.  A woman, identified as a sinner, came and anointed Jesus’ feet.  This led the Pharisee to label Jesus as merely a teacher and not a prophet:
Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.”    (Luke 7:39–40)

The chief priests and Pharisees wanted to seize Jesus because He condemned them with His teaching.  However, they were hesitant to do so because the people regarded Jesus as a prophet.
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.    (Matthew 21:45–46)

Matthew 8 tells us about two men who both referred to Jesus as Lord.  In both cases these men were in a desperate situation.  However, their position in life could not have been any different.  The first man was an outcast, a leper.  The second man, a Roman centurion, was accustom to giving orders to solders and servants.
And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”    (Matthew 8:2)

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.”    (Matthew 8:5–6)

When Lazarus died Jesus came and spoke to Martha.  Her statement of faith and declaration of His authority was absolutely correct:
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”    (John 11:30)

These are just a few examples.  You will find many, many times in the Gospels when people approached Jesus and referred to Him by one of these four titles.  Not every time, but most of the time, the title by which they addressed Jesus tells you something about their situation and their understanding of Jesus’ identity.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Even in the Bible Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Many people are familiar with the story of Jesus, the Pharisee, and the woman who was a sinner.  If you remember, from Luke 7:36–50, the Pharisee invited Jesus over for dinner.  As they were reclining, a woman who was known throughout the city as “a sinner” entered the room.  “She brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.” (Luke 7:37)

This had to be an awkward situation.  You can just imagine the Pharisee and his guests trying to eat dinner with a woman pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet, then crying and wiping them with her hair.  Not exactly how the dinner was planned.

Jesus ended up using the situation to teach about the power of forgiveness.  His message to the Pharisee was that the more you are forgiven, the more you will love the one who forgave your debts.

To me one of the interesting things about this particular story is how Jesus interpreted the body language of both the Pharisee and the woman.  In fact, there are no spoken words recorded for the woman.  It appears that during the entire episode she did not speak.  Jesus understood her body language and nonverbal expressions so clearly that no words were necessary.

Consider how Jesus evaluated the nonverbal communication of both the Pharisee and the woman from Luke 7:44–46.  Notice how Jesus only refers to their nonverbal indicators, and does not mention anything they said verbally.

  ·         “You gave Me no water for My feet”
  ·         “You gave Me no kiss”
  ·         “You did not anoint My head with oil”

  ·         “But she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair”
  ·         “But she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet”
  ·         “But she anointed My feet with perfume”

Jesus’ conclusion in Verse 47 was based solely on their body language and physical actions: “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Learning to look for nonverbal clues as you read the Bible will greatly increase your understanding and improve your interpretation.  Is body language in the Bible important?  Just ask Jesus.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Worthy are You, Our Creator

While working on our next study guide, “Worship in the Bible,” I came across this description of worship in heaven:
And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
(Revelation 4:9–11)

Revelation 4 describes many elements of this heavenly worship that you would expect.  There are thrones, living creatures, and elders.  There is an unending time of worship around the throne of God.  There is praise and adoration as the elders proclaim that God is worthy to receive “glory and honor and power.”

What you might not expect is the basis for God to be worthy of this praise.  You might expect the basis for “glory and honor and power” to be God’s love or mercy or holiness or wisdom.  Instead, CREATION is the foundation upon which God is worthy.  Read that proclamation again:

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

No wonder there is such an aggressive attack against creation.  By the act of creation God is distinguished from every other entity that has ever existed.  There is one CREATOR and many, many creations.

This essential truth, that God created all things, that He alone is the Creator, is woven throughout the Bible.  The foundational truth of creation is proclaimed, not only by the elders in heaven, but also by Prophets, Kings, Apostles, and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Here are a few examples:

Moses – Genesis 5:1–2
This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.

King David – Psalm 33:6–9
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.

Isaiah – Isaiah 40:25–28
“To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of is power, Not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.

Jesus – Matthew 19:3–5
Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?”

Paul – Colossians 1:16
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Peter – 1 Peter 4:19
Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

Notice Peter’s encouragement to his readers.  Even in difficult times we are able to trust God completely because He is a “faithful Creator.” 

The example above from Isaiah 40:25–28 also talked about being strong based on our dependence upon “The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth.”  Isaiah 40:29–31 continues with a promise that even in our weakness we can gain strength through faith in the eternal Creator:

He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
(Isaiah 40:29–31)